Justice Was Served By Threatening Bans to Cheaters Who Don't Come Clean.
Anyone who played Final Fantasy XI can tell you about the controversy surrounding the gardening bans and the salvage duping bans. But if anyone is banned as a result of this recently discovered healing exploit – and yes, it was an exploit – then hopefully what we’ll remember is this:
Square Enix got it right.
As you’ve probably read, Square Enix put players on notice who abused the conjurer or thaumaturge jobs to gain abnormal amounts of skill points. They promised to investigate anyone who may have used this exploit, and indicated they would ban or suspend anyone who is found guilty of using it.
However, Square Enix allowed even guilty players some wiggle room. Players who used this exploit can report themselves through a GM call. Those players will certainly be stripped of thousands of skill and experience points, and rightfully so. They will also get to keep their accounts – which isn’t a luxury Square Enix used to afford.
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If you think SE reacted too harshly in its handling of the healing exploit, then think back to January 2009. The game was Final Fantasy XI, and the development team had recently become smart to an exploit that some endgame linkshells had used for more than a year. This exploit – known among the players as “salvage duping” – allowed alliances to multiply their drop pools by splitting into parties. Those who knew about this exploit hid it well; meanwhile, other players wondered why certain linkshells were so crazily successful.
Nobody was laughing after several hundred swings of the banhammer. As a result of the investigation into salvage duping, 550 players lost their accounts and another 400 were temporarily suspended.
Six months later, Square Enix picked up the banhammer again – this time to squash the accounts of players who were growing wildgrass seeds, then selling their crops to NPCs. While many players regarded the salvage bans as justified, the gardening bans were perceived as a frantic attack against RMT that caught innocent players in the crossfire. Square Enix was roundly criticized across forums and gaming sites.
Now, with Final Fantasy XIV not even a week old, we’re faced with a situation more similar to the salvage bans. A number of players cheated to get ahead. Square Enix could have reacted as ferociously as it did with the salvage bans, and many players – those who didn’t cheat, anyway -- probably would have been OK with that.
Instead, Square Enix chose a middle ground. They did not react with a ruthless iron fist, nor did they react blindly and wildly, wiping away the accounts of anyone who cast cure as a conjurer. By offering a second chance for players who broke the rules, and a chance for those in the gray area to explain themselves, the development team cannot be accused of acting unfairly or without careful thought.
For those keeping count, this is the second meaningful statement Square Enix has made to its playerbase since launch day. The first statement came in the form of a cease and desist order to the makers of WindowerXIV, which should tell people where Square Enix stands on the use of third-party tools. Today’s statement should clear up any doubt about how Square feels about exploits.
And to anyone who thinks the healing exploit wasn’t really cheating, then I offer these words of caution: The all-mighty banhammer doesn’t care what you think; and next time, the folks at Square Enix may not be so kind.